Seventy-six researchers will share in $43 million to support bold and innovative new ideas to not only tackle the impacts of dementia but to find ways of preventing and curing the debilitating disease.
Minister for Health Sussan Ley and Minister for Education and Training Senator Simon Birmingham announced the fellowships as part of the Coalition Government’s $200 million election commitment to dementia research and to ensure Australia remained at the forefront of international best practice.
Ms Ley said dementia was Australia’s second leading cause of death and currently around 1.2 million Australians were involved in the care of someone with the disease.
“This $43 million commitment, which builds on our $35 million research announcement in August, is essential as the number of Australians with dementia is predicted to grow to over one million people in the next 40 years,” Ms Ley said.
“While there is currently no cure for dementia, Australia is a world leader in dementia research and the Fellows announced today will no doubt make leaps and bounds in our understanding of how best to prevent, diagnose and treat this disease and how best to support people with dementia and their carers.
“These fellowships will ensure Australia’s highly skilled, innovative research workforce continues to advance knowledge in dementia and how we can better support people with the disease, their carers and the millions of Australians impacted by the disease now and over the coming decades.”
Ms Ley said the new Fellows would explore ideas such as new ways to understand the progression of dementia in the brain, the role of intense exercise in protecting the ageing brain, and ways to build resilience in the dementia care workforce.
Senator Birmingham said approximately 330,000 Australians were living with dementia, an extremely complex disease that required knowledge from across our research disciplines.
“Tackling dementia needs to be done with a cross-disciplinary focus utilising research skills in a range of areas including neuroscience, bioinformatics, and cultural, social and economic disciplines,” Senator Birmingham said.
“The fellowships awarded today support early career researchers in a broad range of projects covering diverse research disciplines.”
Senator Birmingham said the fellowships would contribute to the World Dementia Council’s target of finding a cure or modifying therapy by 2025.
Today’s announcement builds on the Coalition Government’s approach to support and promote dementia research. In August, Minister Ley announced $35.6 million for National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Dementia Research Team Grants and the establishment of the NHMRC National Institute for Dementia Research.
The Dementia Research Development Fellowships totalling more than $43 million are jointly funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Research Council.
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Dr Kristian Kempe, Monash University, $601,940
One of the most significant challenges in the treatment of dementia is the blood brain barrier, which can impede the delivery of drugs and diagnostic molecules to the brain. Dr Kempe will seek to develop molecules that can transport drugs across the blood-brain barrier.
Dr Ashleigh Smith, University of South Australia, $594,122
Physical activity is important for promoting blood flow to the brain, with some research finding associations with lower risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Dr Smith will seek to improve the understanding of the relationship between physical activity and good brain health. This research will help to develop more effective, targeted and sustainable exercise programs to improve the health of older adults with mild cognitive impairment who are at risk of developing dementia.
Dr Sandra Garrido, University of Western Sydney, $601,540
Music has been shown to have a powerful impact on people’s mood even when cognitive functioning is impaired. Dr Garrido will investigate whether music can alleviate depression and the personal factors and musical variables that shape emotional response. This research will assist in the development of innovative tools to help people with mild dementia and their carers.